2009 GLA Seminar and AGM

On Friday 20 November 2009 I spent the whole day out of the office, attending the 2009 Ghana Library Association (GLA) Seminar and Annual General Meeting (AGM). For some reason while I was at British Council I didn’t make a very concerted effort to attend these annual events, except when they took place at the BC. It is an omission which I do regret, as I think it is important to stay in touch with one’s professional colleagues.

Every two years the GLA event and AGM takes place over two days, while on the alternative years, it is a one-day affair. 2009 was one of the latter years, so everything took place on one day, and as is not unusual here, there were a lot fewer people present at the afternoon event, as opposed to the official opening, and paper in the morning.

As usual I got to the venue early, but there were some people there already – mostly members of the GLA executive – but it was good to have quite a while to sort out matters like stuffing papers into files, checking that the projector which the Goethe Institut had brought worked properly, and was in the best position for a presentation, and so on. Altogether attendance was fairly good – over a hundred, and people spent much of the pre-official time talking to friends and generally keeping in touch.

It was quite a surprise that the Minister of Education, Alex Tettey-Enyo, was actually early, but as all the key people were around, there was the usual Ghanaian opening ceremony, with a prayer, introduction of key people, and then various speeches. TG none of them was too long. Interestingly enough the Minister of [or is it for?] Environment, Science and Technology, Sherry Aryeetey, also came in for a while. Not sure exactly why, though I was aware that she would be attending another conference in the same venue. But she too was pretty supportive of libraries. Tettey-Enyo did say that there was a need for new skills and competencies, and “that [it was] people not technology that create value for knowledge”. There were also speeches by the Director of the Goethe Institut (which sponsored the new GLA website) and of course by the current President of the GLA.

I did wonder what people watching and listening thought about the new GLA website, as I didn’t see anyone come up after the initial opening ceremony to say “let me see… can I try?” Maybe people felt a little inhibited?

The formal presentation was by Nii Tackie, a Lecturer at the Dept of Information Studies at the University of Ghana on “Life long learning: the role of libraries” which was the theme of the whole event. Personally I was a little frustrated at the manner of delivery as well as the content. Tackie did apologize for the lack of a PowerPoint presentation – due to “light off” at a crucial time the previous day – and said he would not read the whole of the fourteen page paper, which he didn’t. But to me, without a copy of the paper in front of me to read, it was somewhat frustrating. The content was very much a literature review in my opinion, and I would have thought it would have been more appropriate to tell the audience present to read the paper for this part, and then directly home in on the relevant bits – which were issues to do with the applicability of the seminar theme to Ghana and/or elsewhere in Africa. There were some questions, but not very many.

The business sections of the AGM were fairly straightforward: President, Secretary and Treasurer’s reports, plus one from the Editor of the Ghana Library Journal . The only real controversy came up over whether or not the names of members should be published in the newspapers, and when this could take place. I was a little surprised at how passionate many people were about this issue, and realized upon reflection that this is often the practice for professional associations and groups in Ghana, and a way of giving a very public credibility to members.

Overall I felt that the executive and organizers had obviously put a lot of work into making this event happen, but I did wonder how much the participants got out of it – professionally and intellectually.Does the format of having a very high table, and the rest on the lower level, promote interaction?  Similarly the theatre style seating doesn’t really encourage a lot of people giving feedback. Would it be possible to have presentations to smaller groups – who could then report to the larger assembly, or something along these lines?

Thoughts I admit, not really actions, but worth following up?


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